Getting a promotion can be an emotional rollercoaster ride. On the one hand, you are exhilarated by the increased paycheck and other perks heading your way, but then you suddenly realize the extra responsibilities you need to manage. You might be looking to turn to your peers for your support and then you realize: you are their boss now or that you simply beat them to it.

Managing your peers can be a tough task, as the jump from working together to working for the other person can create friction and wariness.

How to Manage Peers When You Get Promoted

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In this guide, we’ll give you tips on how to make the transition smoother and to manage your peers when the promotion lands on your desk.

#1 DEVELOP A CONSISTENT APPROACH

The first thing you must do is to develop an approach for handling your new position and then remain consistent with it. Take a moment to process your promotion before you head out to confront your peers.

Consistency is essential for a smooth transition. You shouldn’t be the best mate to your peers on one day, only to play it tough the next. If your peers know what to expect from you in terms of your management style and communication, accepting the new situation will be easier. Changing your approach from one to another can in fact increase resentment because it makes it harder to know where you stand.

When you start thinking about how you’ll approach this new situation, consider how you’d like to be treated if the tables were turned. Put yourself in your peers’ position and empathize with their possible disappointment of being overlooked or having a friend manage them.

Furthermore, you need to start from a clean slate and let your colleagues know it. You don’t want to use your knowledge of their behavior against them in the future. For example, you might be aware one of them once spent the whole day watching box sets while claiming to be sick. But you need to treat this as a past incident and not let it affect how you manage the person in the future.

Some of the behavior your colleagues might not be about resentment or annoyance, but sincere fear of what will happen now. For example, if they know you know about their naughty habits, they might feel vulnerable in how you might use this against them in the new position. Therefore, you need to ease their fear by making it clear that past is past and everyone is starting with a clean slate.

Essentially, you should not just think about the peers you’ll be managing, but consider more broadly the kind of manager you want to be. Think about your style by answering questions like:

  • How do you want to approach problems at the office?
  • What do you think is the best way to motivate people?
  • How can you increase collaboration and co-operation?
  • What do you expect from your colleagues?
  • What can you offer them in return?
  • Where do you draw the line in bad behavior?

If you carefully analyze your own management style and the approaches you’d like managers to use, you can create a way to handle this situation in a calm and professional manner.

#2 SHOW HUMILITY AFTER YOUR GOT PROMOTED

Getting a promotion is always an exciting occasion and you have every reason to be proud and happy about it. But the best place to showcase this happiness is not at the office in front of your peers, but at home amongst your family.

At work, you want to show how proud you feel about the promotion simply by doing a good job. It all relates again on your ability to emphasize with your co-workers.

Flashing your bigger pay check or boasting about the bigger office space and other perks won’t feel nice when you aren’t the one with these benefits. Set yourself in the shoes of the co-worker and understand what the promotion would have meant for them. Show humility and keep your enjoyment professional.

Remember this doesn’t mean you must pretend like you aren’t enjoying your new position or that it hasn’t brought benefits to you. You just don’t want to make a number of these advantages to your co-workers. As the old saying goes, you shouldn’t “rub salt in the wounds”.

Humility also helps you deal with co-workers that are less secretive about their feelings regarding the promotion. You don’t want to start thinking you are somehow better than your peers because of the promotion. Whilst you were considered the best fit for the role at the time, the situation might have been reversed in a different role and a different time.

Furthermore, by meeting disrespect with respect, you are taking the highway and highlighting to other colleagues that you are up to the task. It’s likely that the person being a jerk towards you will soon grow tired of behaving this way, as you aren’t responding the way they want.

If you want to understand the importance of humility in business, you should check out the below video by Harvard Business Review. It discusses how a proper leader will need to instill humility to his or her actions:

#3 TALK ABOUT THE SITUATION

You should also discuss the new situation with your peers, especially if you are promoted to a management position. It shows good leadership skills to have a one-on-one chat which each colleague.

The objective is to talk about the current situation and to get input from your peers as to what they’d hope you’d change around the workplace now that you are in a management position. You want to make them feel appreciated and showcase them the opportunities they still have at the workplace.

The key is to stay empathetic during this conversation, but don’t make it about their or your feelings. The more emotional the discussion gets, the more likely it is that one of you ends up saying something mean or hurtful in the heat of the moment. Things like “I did deserve this promotion” and “I feel I was more qualified” are not the kind of things you should be talking about. If you feel the conversation is getting too emotional or personal, suggest you talk later as the feelings settle down.

In addition, try to direct the discussion towards the person’s career aspirations and their ideas for the organization. Showcase them the opportunities that’ll keep coming their way, as it can help them feel better even though this promotion might have slipped from their hands.

Avoid having them dwell on ‘what might have been’, but instead talk about future projects and their role in these. It’s a good idea to have each colleague present to you their specific career goals they have so that you can be supportive of them reaching these objectives. For example, you can say you’ll look into different training options.

Furthermore, have each peer provide you with improvement ideas, whether it is for the office mood, the handling of project or overall management. You don’t necessarily have to agree or implement these, but you do want to listen to them.

You should listen to the idea with an open mind, but also remind the person that you have the final say on the matter. For instance, “I hear that you’d prefer to have the deadline removed for Thursday. I’ll look into it in terms of other projects it’s tied with, but I might not be able to provide the extension.

To help you direct the conversation, here are the points you should cover with each employee:

  • Understand and acknowledge their emotions regarding your promotion.
  • Move on from the promotion, especially in terms of emotions, and direct the conversation to the person’s career aspirations.
  • Express interest towards what they want to achieve in the future and discuss the different options you might be able to provide them.
  • Make it clear that they, as well as you, still have a job to perform and personal feelings should not influence this.
  • Show willingness to listen, but remind you still are making the final decisions.

#4 ESTABLISH THE AUTHORITY

You need to draw a new line between you and your peers, which typically require you to approach the new relationship with a more professional manner. Authority is another aspect you must add to this mixture.

As mentioned briefly above, you can’t gossip about the workplace in the same way now that you are in a management position. The relationship has changed and you need to be aware of this. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friendly or not hang out with your peers, but that an inevitable adjustment is required to guarantee you succeed in your new role.

Authority is something you must establish, as your colleagues need to know that you are the boss. When you’ve worked with someone for a long time, the shift from equals to a manager-employee position is not always the easiest.

If you are faced with peers that don’t take your new authority and position seriously, you need to take action. Just as you’ll respect them with employees, they also need to respect you as the manager.

Assert your position in a friendly, but straight manner. For instance, if you find them struggling to meet deadlines, instead of saying, “You were supposed to do this already, you now have until tomorrow”, you can say, “The deadline for this project was yesterday, could you explain what the problem was for getting it finished?” The last approach is sturdy, but you are also not assuming aloud that they missed the deadline on purpose. Instead, you are offering them help and the ability to explain what’s going on.

If you are struggling with assertiveness, start paying more attention to your wording. For instance, look at the following sentences:

  • It would be great if you could let Tim know about the report’s findings next week.
  • Please let Tim know next week what you found out with the report.

The two are rather similar in the sentiment, but the latter isn’t asking the person to act a certain way, but rather it is giving a directive. If you need the person to perform a task, don’t frame it as a choice. You don’t need to say, “Do this now”, but you can make it friendlier by stating, “Please look at this before the end of the day. If you have queries let me know”.

Overall, you want to provide support and guidance to your peers. Don’t assume they are missing deadlines on purpose, but try to figure out if there are some underlying issues you might not have noticed prior to becoming a manager.

A good way to approach authority is to point out that the deadlines or rules are not there for you to feel happy and to ‘rule’ the office – they are for the benefit of the company. The colleagues aren’t pleasing you by meeting deadlines, but they are helping the organization to succeed.

Lastly, it’s important that you highlight your authority by following through with punishments as well. If peers are constantly behaving inappropriately or ignoring your orders, you have to show them the behavior has consequences. Whether this is a warning of some kind or another method, people need to know you mean what you say.

#5 ADDRESS ISSUES HEAD-ON

Finally, you can’t let any resentment within the workplace fester for too long, as it can start creating real problems. Whilst it is a good idea to give everyone some breathing room in the immediate aftermath of your promotion, but eventually you need to weed out unacceptable behavior. Bickering and outright hostility should not be allowed to spoil the organization.

If you notice there’s a person that seems to continue to have a problem with your new position even after the dust has settled, you need to take them aside and address the issues head-on. Always talk to the person individually, even if you realize it is a small group of people behaving inappropriately.

Don’t accuse the person of being a jerk, but allow them to explain to you what is bothering them. Don’t make it about the promotion, but address it as a management issues. For instance, say “I feel like we’ve not been able to find a common language yet and I’d like you to tell me how I could improve as a manager to ensure you are more comfortable?

When you make it about the management style it:

  • Highlights your position of authority, as you gently point out that you are now a manager
  • Tells them you are willing to listen to their advice and input on how you can improve as a manager

Overall, by making it about your management style and not about the promotion, you force them to think whether they are behaving in an inappropriate manner. It might well be that they finally have to face the fact that you have been promoted and it can’t be changed. They can only change their attitude towards it.

If they point out to any issues they might have with your style and approach, be open to their suggestions or critique. Some of it might well be invalid, but some aspects might teach you something new about how to lead better.

Don’t be the only one taking in criticism. While you don’t want to accuse the person necessarily on their bad behavior, you do need to remind them about their responsibilities. If the person is not doing his or her job properly out of resentment, you have to use the similar tactics from the above section. Remind that they are accountable to the organization and it is them and the business that suffers if they can’t perform the job.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When you are promoted to a new position, you’ll likely face different types of reactions from your peers. Some are genuinely happy, while others might greet you with a sour face. It’s important to understand that not all negative emotions are necessarily directed towards you as a person, but people might simply be due to the disappointment the person feels for not getting the job.

Therefore, allow the situation to calm and settle down. Focus your efforts on getting to grips with the new role and finding your foothold as a manager. Treat people with respect and dignity, but understand that the relationship will be different now from what it used to be.

Overall, focus on becoming a better manager and to improve your ability to get the work done. If people have an issue with you and your approach, give them space to voice their objections and ideas. Listen to what other’s might have to say, but don’t allow people’s bitterness to stop you from doing your job.

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